The Great Board Game Debate

You see…if Mike Tyson had arms that shot fire out of them, it wouldn’t matter that his legs were made out of jello. He would still be able to take out 10 elephants with cannons that hate the smell of cheese. It’s not even close, it’s Mike Tyson!!!

Well, who would you vote for? Fiery Mike or the Lactose-Intolerant Pachyderms? You may have played some games where you have been asked to make these kinds of decisions. The above example is reminiscent of what you might find if you were playing Superfight.

There are plenty of games on the market that utilize the voting mechanism, many of which can easily be found at stores like Wal-Mart, Target, or Barnes & Noble. Not every voting game is the same, though:

  • There are hidden role voting games (Werewolf, Resistance) in which you are using deduction in a social setting to vote on who is the enemy, werewolf, betrayer, etc.
  • There is Dixit in which you are trying to match several pictures with a verbal clue to determine which picture the clues derived from in the first place.
  • You could also play Apples to Apples and try to persuade the picker that your played noun does the best job of matching the adjective card.
  • And then there’s games like Superfight, Cards Against Humanity, and their rip-offs that force you to choose why one wacky scenario would beat another wacky scenario given a certain condition (fighting, ugliest, most depressing, whatever!)

Generally speaking, this is one of my least favorite game mechanisms (Voting or Judging). But as I think about the list above, I realize that for me personally it depends on the way in which the mechanism is utilized in the game.

I enjoy voting the most when it is tied to deduction. The game we own that best fits this criteria is One Night Ultimate Werewolf. In this game, after the action phase, people just start talking and I love the opportunity to logically deduce from everyone’s words what could or could not be possible. In the end, whether I voted successfully or to my own detriment, there is no personal player “value judgment” that occurs.

I have similar feelings about a game like Dixit. When I vote for a particular card, it has nothing to do with the person who played the card, just that I am simply doing my best to figure out which picture matches the clue (and its amazing how very different pictures can match the clue when you start letting your mind wander and interpret).

Then there is the Apples to Apples style game — now we are starting to get into games of “persuasion.”

For example, in my Disney Apples to Apples scenario above, Player A is adamant that boys are the coolest and thus the obvious choice. Player B loves Toy Story and knows that nobody is cooler than Woody. Player C is an adventurer and thinks that it is cool to climb new heights. While Player D knows that Peter the Picker loves The Lion King and just starts humming the Circle of Life in the background of all the banter and dialogue.

Do I like this game? I do (especially the Disney version), but I don’t like having to be persuasive. So, generally, I take the laid-back approach and just try to let my card speak for itself. I do this partly because I want to keep the “who” out of the choice. When I’m the picker, I don’t want to feel like I’m picking Joe over Rhonda or Susie over Steve. I just want to pick the best card based on my own personal perceptions.

Now, the persuasion game levels up when you get into the realm of a Superfight. What I like and enjoy about this type of game is the story-telling — why would that light-saber wielding hipster be victorious in battle despite his fear of shadows? Because he has been training and honing his skills in night-time/dark situations for years and if that teleporting reggae band wants to find him, they will have to lurk into lightless environs, where weaponless, they won’t stand a chance.

Now of course, my opponent can weave their own story and thus persuade the rest of the players why I am wrong and the reggae band would be victorious. What I do not enjoy is when the story-telling starts to turn into a game of who can be the most persuasive. This is just a personal preference — if you are an extrovert or alpha gamer, you may relish in the opportunity to enforce your will and bring the masses to your way of thinking. It’s just not my cup of tea and thus why I tend to get soured on this type of voting or judging game.

In the end, the less a vote depends on the actual players and their personalities, the more I will enjoy the mechanism and the game itself.

What about you? What is your favorite judging game? How do you feel about this genre in general?

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